Know your rights when buying a second-hand car from a dealer

2014-02-25 00:00

THE Consumer Protection Act has gone some way to level the playing field of the second-hand car market by providing consumers with the right to a refund, a repair or a replacement if a salesman does not point out defects and the car turns out to be faulty.

Jeanette Campbell, who bought a used R19 000 VW Fox for her daughter, from Crescent Car Sales in Pietermaritzburg, complained that she received “a raw deal” and that the dealership had refused to refund her.

“They told me there was nothing wrong with the car,” Campbell said.

But Campbell was devastated when she discovered a major fault two days later and learned that the engine needed to be overhauled.

“I drove the vehicle home on January 18, drove it to work on the Monday and to my doctor later in the morning. On my way back, I heard a strange noise so I pulled off the road and opened the bonnet,” Campbell said.

“The dip stick was bouncing up and down and smoke was coming out. I drove home very slowly,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the salesperson Junade Olla, who had sold her the car, arrived with a mechanic to inspect it.

“They agreed there was a problem in the motor and that someone had taken the pipe off the air cleaner, so that who­ever purchased the vehicle would not know that it had ‘blow by’, meaning that the vehicle was not getting oil,” Campbell said.

Campbell demanded a refund. How­ever, she said Olla advised her that the best he could do was to provide her with replacement parts for her to get the car fixed at her own cost.

Campbell said several days later, when the parts had not materialised, Olla advised that she would be refunded.

But last week Campbell was still waiting.

“Up until now, I am the loser sitting with a vehicle that I can do nothing with. I feel this is disgusting for a dealer,” Campbell complained. She lodged a complaint with the Motor Industry Ombudsman, who also took up her case.

When I asked Crescent Car Sales branch manager Nadeem Khan why the customer’s request for a refund had not been met, he said the car was “not part of our stock”.

“We mentioned to the client even before the transaction that we were merely selling the car on behalf of someone else,” Khan said.

He said the car had the fault before it was sold, which was why he would fix it for free as a “goodwill gesture”.

“In future should we ever sell a car on behalf of a third party, I would have it thoroughly checked and disclose any faults that the vehicle may have to the client prior to concluding a transaction as per the CPA,” Khan said. He added that the company’s stock vehicles undergo “stringent checks” to ensure buyers receive their purchases in “100% condition”.

Campbell agreed in the end for the dealership to get the car fixed by a mechanic of her choice.

Motor Industry Ombudsman Johan van Vreden said his office received about 7 000 complaints annually against companies that don’t subscribe to the voluntary scheme.

“The MIOSA endeavours to assist all motorists that experience difficulties with their vehicles,” van Vreden said.

However, he added that an industry code awaiting signing by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, would soon give his office statutory powers to enforce the CPA on all car dealers on behalf of the National Consumer Commission.

I asked Liza Bagley, a litigation specialist with Venns Attorneys, whether a dealer could hide behind a “private sale” claim as in this case and she advised that the CPA “ties up every party in the supply chain with regards to liability”.

“The consumer has the right to claim against whoever he chooses in the supply chain,” Bagley said.

Bagley said used cars were covered by the implied warranty created by the CPA for a period of six months after delivery and consumers could choose a repair, a refund or a replacement.

However, Bagley said if a salesman advised a consumer in writing or verbally of a defect or the possibility of a defect, the warranty would not apply.

“The consumer would have to be notified of all known defects and if an issue arises within the six-month period relating to one of these items, the warranty does not apply, as the consumer agreed to accept the vehicle as a used vehicle in the condition stipulated,” Bagley said.

However, she said usual wear and tear could be expected and would not constitute a defect. The CPA only applies to suppliers who sell cars during their ordinary course of business and not to private sales between individuals.

• Send your consumer issues to Lyse Comins at

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